An Alligator in a Desert Oasis
By Lynn Blamires Content Writer for My Local Utah
Number 5 in the series: Stories and Discoveries in the Backcountry
South of Mesquite across the Virgin River Bridge on the Lyme Kiln Road is a route to Pakoon Springs in the Mojave Desert. While it would be passible in a 4×4 truck or jeep, a passenger car would not be happy on this road. Pakoon Springs is the former home to Clem, the alligator.
Arriving at Pakoon Springs, I noted that finding a spring in the desert is remarkable. To the traveler, it is a life-or-death matter.
Clem comes to Pakoon Springs
Brought in a shoe box in the back of a station wagon as a gift in 1986 from the swamps of the Deep South, this little gator was named Clem. Released into the pool at the spring, few believed that he could survive the extreme heat of the day and cold of the desert nights.
Fed by the spring, the pool remained a constant 78 degrees and survive he did. Clem hid in his pond and rarely came out. When he did, he was as fierce and grumpy as you would expect a gator to be.
Avoiding the Fireman’s Water Scoops
During some fires in the late 1980’s, water from the springs was used by the firefighters. Clem had to do his best to avoid being scooped up in a helicopter bucket used to take water from the spring. However, when the operation was over Clem was still there.
A close Call
As the gator grew, respect for him also grew. A ranch hand was working under a truck when he turned his head and noticed a very large Clem waddling close to the truck. Nothing happened, but I am sure that guy was never the same after that.
The ranching stopped when the ranch was sold to the government with the agreement that no harm would come to Clem. Previously fed rabbits and chickens by the rancher to supplement his diet, food became scarce when the rancher left, and Clem was forced to live off bullfrogs and slow rabbits.
Fat and happy in retirement
When they finally fished him out nineteen years later in 2005, he was a skinny 130 pounds. Clem now resides at the Phoenix Herpetological Society in Scottsdale, Arizona at a plump 600 pounds and growing. There is a sign at the spring that tells the story about Clem, but you can read more by typing Pakoon Springs into your browser.